Cleaning up Hydro One is an urgent priority

By MPP Toby Barrett

One reason we spent this summer at Queen’s Park – the House rose mid-August – was to bring in legislation to begin to clean up the hydro mess.

Case in point – I just wrote a cheque for a property that used $23.05 of electricity, but required $40 to deliver it.

Residential electricity costs increased 71 per cent between 2008 and 2016, more than double the national average increase of 34 per cent.

Meanwhile, the CEO at Hydro One made $6.2 million last year, not to mention the lofty $14.2 million other top executives paid themselves at our expense.

This summer Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs shepherded the passage of the Urgent Priorities Act.

As he explained during debate, nowhere has the public’s trust been so tested as with our province’s electricity system. We’ve heard it on the doorstep time and time again. We’ve heard it at town halls. We’ve read it in every community newspaper. The public’s faith in the management of this province’s electricity system has fallen and fallen. In recent years, they have been given little reason to hope that things would change.

Premier Ford agrees, “It is morally indefensible, at a time when seniors are fearful of heating their own homes, when businesses are closing down and good jobs are moving out of our province, and when taxpayers are facing financial hardships – all due to skyrocketing hydro bills – that this board and this CEO were laughing themselves to the bank.”

Under the previous government, Hydro One executive compensation reached unprecedented levels. The CEO of Hydro One was given $6.2 million in 2017. About $3.5 million of that was in the form of stock-based incentives. We can’t change that but we have been able to find a negotiated solution at Hydro One that would help minimize the costs to Ontario ratepayers.

On July 11th, we were pleased to accept a proposal from the board of directors of Hydro One that will see the board step down and be replaced as of August 15th.

By engaging constructively with Hydro One’s board, we have delivered on our commitment, our promise to the people of Ontario. We have kept the company stable and we have achieved a lower-cost result by avoiding substantial severance payments.

Hydro One is an important company and a vital part of our province’s electricity system. It controls 95 per cent of the transmission wires that cross Ontario. It is also the local distributor for over five million customers. It has far more rural and remote customers than any other distributor in the province. These customers are often the most vulnerable, the people struggling the hardest to make ends meet.

To successfully operate a company like Hydro One, you need a great deal of technical and financial knowledge. As important as that knowledge may be, the other imperative is an understanding and respect for the customer. Providing certainty and direction for the company and reassurance to the public that their interests are protected can be a win for all of Ontario.

Fortunately, the days of choosing between heating and eating will be drawing to close as our continued work will save the average Ontario family 12 per cent on their hydro bills – about $170 a year.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk